California Chrome is undefeated since jockey Victor Espinoza began riding him in December, winning six races by a combined 27 1/2 lengths, including the first two legs of the triple crown. But, per the New York Daily News, Espinoza has a horrid record at Belmont Park, where on Saturday California Chrome will attempt to become the first triple crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Since he began riding in 1993, Espinoza has won more than 3,100 races, while mainly riding on the Southern California circuit, but he is just 2-for-67 at Belmont Park, winning the 2001 Champagne Stakes aboard Officer and the 2004 Vosburgh Stakes on Pico Central.
“That’s my record?” Espinoza said to the Daily News. “I don’t even know. I don’t follow records and I don’t really care about records. I just care about the horses I ride.”
Espinoza has ridden three Belmont Stakes losers, including an eighth-place finish aboard War Emblem when that horse was going for the triple crown in 2002. “On Saturday, Espinoza finished last aboard Miz Owell in the Mount Vernon Stakes on the grass in his first mount at Belmont since Oct. 4, 2008, and, on Sunday, he finished fifth aboard Stableford in the eighth race,” the Daily News reported.
[Related: American thoroughbreds are no longer bred to go the distance in the Belmont Stakes.]
By comparison, John Velazquez has won the Belmont Stakes twice since 2007 and recently became the top-earning jockey in North American racing history with more than $303 million in purses won. He will ride Ride On Curlin — which finished a close second with Joel Rosario aboard at the Preakness Stakes — on Saturday. Rosario will ride Peter Pan Stakes winner Tonalist on Saturday.